I’ve always been a good sleeper. I was even one of those miracle babies whose parents hit the genetic jackpot of offspring who sleep through the night at 6 weeks. As an adult, I fall asleep almost as soon as my head hits the pillow, and my superpower is the ability to have a 10min nap in the middle of the day and wake up refreshed.
Lately my sleeping patterns have changed. I fall into bed exhausted at 8pm from carrying my burden of grief, but then I wake at 1:30am, turning things over. Having taken the edge off my exhaustion, it’s like my brain wakes me because it knows it’s got stuff to process. Not the usual dumb stuff. There’s a jumble inside my head and heart, and my brain is desperately trying to create some kind of meaning. It wants to bring order out of chaos.
Who is this stranger who doesn’t sleep well? I don’t know myself any more.
There was a birthday lunch for one of the school mums this week. Someone else was organising it, but I volunteered to host it at my house. Everyone was bringing stuff so that was easy. And this is who I am: I love people and I love hospitality. Don’t I? It took me 2 days of hibernation to recover from those 2 hours. Me, the extrovert.
Where has this exhaustion with people come from? Is this the inward channeling of energy that grief requires? Is it almost 6 years of living cross-culturally and in the majority world catching up with me? Is it because I’m in a new cross-cultural situation, thrown into a missionary community for the first time and a predominantly American one at that? Maybe it’s a combination; after all, those things interact with each other. The point is, I don’t know!
I’m having trouble describing myself. Can I think of myself as an extrovert anymore? At one level, categories and descriptions can be pretty artificial, but they do help us to make sense of the world. And mine do not fit anymore. Yes, I know all that stuff about finding your identity in Christ. I’m not talking about that stuff. I’m talking about the smaller picture. It’s the ordinary life stuff of being a human, knowing how to read and interpret yourself. I can no longer articulate those things.
In my confusion, last night this thought came to me. God still knows me. Not the me I used to be. The new me. The one I am today. The one I do not know.
Yesterday I untangled a knot of wool for my boys so we could use it to make pasta jewellery. It was knots knotted up with other knots, the knottiest knot you could knot, and they were convinced that there was no way it could ever come out. If they got one of the little knots on the side, the rest seemed too complicated, too overwhelming, too impossible to decipher. They were amazed when it eventually came out to make one long thread. That was what sent me back to sleep eventually last night, that there is One who can make sense of what is a jumble and a knot and a burden.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.